Sample Art Paper on Expression of Power in Medieval Societies

Interaction between people has always been characterized by explicit power relations. Some seek to dominate others, get recognition for championing for good societal values, and still others seek to establish ideas that should ideally guide the society’s way of life. All these aspects depict the expression of power inequality between members of the society. Certain persons strive to be held in high regard in society in relation to the rest of the society. This may happen in all the relevant interaction spheres of human beings – political engagements, social interactions and economic activities. Societies may use art to express such power pursuits. Common art includes the erection of statues of persons held as heroes within public spaces. This discussion seeks to evaluate how art was used to express power in Medieval Societies by comparing the European Cultures and the Chinese Cultures. Proper language expressions would be used in this context to give specific explanations that suit varied audiences – children and older persons.

These two groups of audience – children and older citizens – have a varied understanding of art expression. The children would easily understand visual art expressions as they are vivid. The older citizens have much more intuition on pieces of art and may derive more meaning on the expressions included in a visual expression. They can also interpret art in figures of a speech delivered by persons in a better manner. As an author of this piece, my role is to inform the older audience in explanations to provoke their intuition on the role of art in expressing ideas. For the children audience, my role would be much about giving an engaging and entertaining explanation of the use of artistic expressions in communication. The intended media strategy used in this communicative piece would entail a preliminary identification of the varied forms of artistic expressions of power followed by comparative evaluation of the art forms with the power representation in contemporary society today.

The era of the Roman Empire was known for excellent expressions of Art and characterized with inventions and the birth of great philosophers. Its collapse left most of the European people with no single unifying government. The medieval period was mostly associated with religiosity and barbarism. This gave the Catholic Church a powerful role in controlling the political power in the European societies. Most kings and queens had to liase with the Church for protection and continued power. The artistic who formed associated with the church were considered holy and a symbol of the church authority. Remember the church was collecting the 10 percent tithe and still got exemptions from taxation by the government. This meant that the two institutions existed mutually despite each one being an authority in its right. The same period also saw the Islam religion expand its territory beyond the Middle East. The Church had to authorize military crusades to remove the Muslim adherents from their territory. A red cross worn on coats distinguished the military crusaders who joined the cause. They could be forgiven some debts and have property protection by the papacy.

Figure 1 The cross

The Catholic Church in Europe also built large grand cathedrals and monasteries as an expression of its authority and power. This architectural design of the structures followed the Romanesque style with rounded masonry arches, barrel vaults, and thick stone walls. Later, Gothic building style was adopted with huge stained glasses, spires, and some enhanced flying buttresses. Illuminated manuscripts by the monasteries’ craftsmen were used as books. The armies maintained by the kingship were also a symbol of power. They were represented by riding horses with bow-armed warriors. There was also a clear social stratification in the European society.

Figure 2. Social stratification

Figure 3. Grand cathedral

In contrast, the Chinese society believed that some humanlike creatures that adopted a Paleolithic culture had once lived there – the Peking man. Chinese followed a Neolithic culture thereafter. Some of their art forms included walled towns and black pots that were made before their civilization. Remember, China was isolated from the rest of the world by many mountains, making them develop a history of their own. The Shang culture later dominated China when the Shang tribal leaders dominated those from other tribes. The walled city was a sign of authority and it kept changing around the Chinese cities. Chinese people valued and embraced bronze metallurgy in a leading way. It was used to make weapons, ceremonial vessels, and other highly revered materials. Animal art was often used as the motif in bronze art.

Figure 4. Chinese dragon

Imposing buildings were used by Chinese kings. Horse drawn chariots were also a symbol of power as they were used in war. Any king who died would be buried in tombs with their still-living servants and chariots. The Kings also held a monopoly in the metallurgy of bronze materials. Magic had a special place in Chinese culture, with a belief that yang and yin- spiritual beings – opposed each other. Clannism was only for the kings. The other people were presumed not to have a clan or an ancestor. Social classes later emerged when feudalism came into being. Warriors wore tunics and trousers on backhorses as a sign of aggression. In later years, both the Chinese and European societies have adopted civilization and rational thinking as the basis of power distribution. There are governments that protect the minorities. Most of these governments are run based on established constitutions and set of laws.



Work Cited

Ames, Roger T. The art of rulership: A study of ancient Chinese political thought. SUNY Press, 1983.

Hwang, Kwang-kuo. “Face and favor: The Chinese power game.” American journal of Sociology (1987): 944-974.

Helms, Mary W. Craft and the kingly ideal: Art, trade, and power. University of Texas Press, 2013.